May 5, 2008 TZ Tanzania

I have been in Dar es Salaam working with SELFINA for almost 6 months now, and my experience has been somewhat different to that of most other fellows. Unlike most fellows, I have not been going out into the field to visit clients. I have been based in SELFINA’s head office working on integrating kiva’s requirements into SELFINA’s existing processing, e.g. adding kiva-specific surveys to the loan applications. My goal has been to develop an efficient system for posting, journaling, data collection and filing (e.g. Ben Elberger, Dana Lunberry, and the excel master Alec...

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May 5, 2008 AZ Azerbaijan

As I wrap up my time as a Kiva Fellow with Norwegian Microcredit (Normicro) in Azerbaijan, I realized that I cannot adequately summarize in words the knowledge I’ve gained on microfinance and Azerbaijan, things and places I’ve seen, and people and entrepreneurs I’ve met.  For to share about microfinance in Azerbaijan, one must place it in the context of the country’s historical and current political and economic situation.  Besides, the previous Kiva Fellow in Azerbaijan had already written an excellent blog on this topic.  (See: ‘The Role of Microfinance in...

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Apr 30, 2008 KH Cambodia

Most of the clients I visit make just enough money from their businesses to get by day to day.  When you ask what their future plans or hopes are, some have none in sight- just repeating the same monotonous labor, day in and day out, to continue to put food on the table… challenging enough with the rising food inflation here (http://www.voanews.com/english/2008-04-21-voa21.cfm).  If family members are sick (with an 8+ member household in a developing country- odds are someone will be sick), medical costs can make this prohibitive and put business...

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Apr 30, 2008 TZ Tanzania

 

 

Days go by and I often forget how life in Africa can be so different than life in the States. Events from this past weekend remind me that I am going to really miss Tanzania when I leave in June.

 

On Saturday, I was driving to a friend’s house when I was stopped by a policeman who flagged me down from the side of the road. In Swahili, he asked for my license and then asked for me to show him that the brakes, lights...

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Apr 29, 2008 WS Samoa

It seems to be a requisite duty of a Fellow to provide the “You know you’re in…when” so here’s my take:

10. Rugby is life. American Football is called ‘American Rugby’. Though a Samoan-American is 40 times more likely to make the NFL than a non-Samoan American (thanks, ESPN), the more than 30 ethnic Samoan football players in the NFL, like Troy Polamalu or Junior Seau, do not have celebrity status. That fame is reserved for the Rugby players of Manu Samoa (National Team) and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson born of a Samoan...

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Apr 26, 2008 CM Cameroon

Cameroon. For us, it is the end of a long road. Since we left the U.S. in December, Dave and Megan have set foot in 13 countries, 11 in Africa. Our overland trek started in Casablanca and took us through Morocco/Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and finally here, Bamenda, the capital city of the Northwest Province, altitude above 1000 meters, surrounded by mountains, green, lush, and yes, the beginning of the “light” rainy season.

Our arrival in Cameroon three weeks ago occurred in several stages.

• First,...

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Apr 25, 2008 GH Ghana

As my fellowship nears its end, I’ve purposely taken time to step back and revisit my original reasons for deciding to quit my job, stuff my apartment into a dusty storage unit, leave family and friends and fly to Ghana.  One of my goals was to see the impact of commercialization on an MFI’s social mission. 

Recently, Sinapi has confronted this issue head-on when it started the process of converting from an NGO to a formal financial institution.   Like many MFIs before it, Sinapi wanted to change...

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Apr 21, 2008 KH Cambodia

Last month I had the chance to shadow a couple HKL credit officers at the Kampong Cham branch, an hour and a half northeast of Phnom Penh. Since my responsibilities here in Cambodia are mainly training and implementing the Kiva process rather than write journals, I was excited to get out and meet the people who make microfinance happen. I have nothing but the highest respect for Mr. Virak and Mr. Vo, who ride around the hot, dusty countryside four days a week helping prospective clients process loan applications. And they manage to look sharp while they’re at it, which is a challenge...

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Apr 21, 2008 UG Uganda

Last week I had a heated discussion with a minibus taxi conductor. The locals that witnessed this event rarely see anyone losing their temper, let alone raising their voice in public. Genevieve and I have been using the same bus route for a number of weeks now and, while at first we paid slightly more than the locals, it’s now obvious that we know the price and all the conductors charge us appropriately.

I was having a bad day, I shouldn’t have let myself get frustrated in this way, and I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t...

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Apr 19, 2008 WS Samoa

In the right place at the right time, I had the great fortune to meet the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa as a representative for Kiva. An SPBD entrepreneur was selected through Kiva by Advanta, an American small business banking company, to travel to the United States and speak at a few engagements about her Elei printing business. A big deal here in Samoa evidenced by a send off from the DPM. It even made the national newspaper: http://www.samoaobserver.ws/local/LNPages/0408/1608ln007.htm

One would think the content of a conversation with the...

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